Bryan Health’s high-tech Exoskeleton helps patients learn to walk again

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – Bryan Health showcased a new technology on Tuesday it is using with patients who recently have suffered a stroke or an injury to the brain or spine.

The computerized walking frame Exoskeleton is meant to increase safety while patients learn to walk again.

It supports a patient’s body weight and encourages a normal walking pattern. Settings can be adjusted depending on the need, stopping patients from falling or backing off from assisting.

One Lincoln man reflected on how far he has come since he began using this technology a year ago.

Shortly after his father’s passing, 52-year-old Brian Carlson was diagnosed with COVID-19.

He was in the process of moving out to the family farm with his five children when the illness took a turn.

Carlson developed a rare neurological complication that altered his immune system to attack his muscles and nerves.

He spent time in the intensive care unit at Bryan Health, relying on a ventilator and lying completely paralyzed.

“I couldn’t really lift my arms to feed myself, I couldn’t get out of bed, I couldn’t move my legs, I couldn’t raise or flex my toes,” Carlson said. “So they suggested this Exoskeleton as something new that had just been donated by the Eagles Club to the hospital.”

Carlson was one of the first patients to use the device.

Donated by the Fraternal Order of Eagles, the computerized walking frame helped him regain enough strength to return to normal life as a preschool teacher.

“I think once I tried it out and realized that it wasn’t so bad, we would set goals like a certain number of steps or trying to make it down to the end of the hall,” he said. “Then I knew I was probably going to be able to get out of the hospital.”

For six weeks, from about Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, Carlson was in the hospital.

But this year, he’ll be rocking around the Christmas tree with the whole family once again.

During the showcase, donors and physical therapists shared how much it means to see “a strong emotional impact on people.”

“It can give patients so much more confidence,” said Barb Wagner, lead physical therapist at Bryan West. “It allows them to feel what it’s like to be up and normal when, from a physical perspective, they’re not able to do that.”

Only four physical therapists are currently trained with the Exoskeleton, but they have helped over 40 patients in the last year.

Nebraska is the only state with three of the devices, which have been funded by local donations.

Currently, only six are in use around the country, but experts are hopeful that more are on the way to help patients on the road to recovery.

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